26 September 2023

CANADA: Union unhappy with hybrid confusion

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While Canadian Public Servants are gradually returning to their offices after the COVID-19 pandemic, many say they want more clarity and consistency from the Treasury Board of Canada about working arrangements.

The Treasury Board, which oversees the Public Service, has simply said there was “no one-size-fits-all approach” and Deputy Ministers (Permanent Secretaries) had the authority on how their employees would make the return.

National Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Sharon DeSousa said this was not good enough.

“We do not see a clear direction in terms of what return-to-work looks like,” Ms DeSousa said.

“I’ve heard from members of the union about a lack of answers and a sense of instability surrounding the return to work, particularly with how plans look different from Department to Department,” he said.

“Employees deserve to have safe and healthy work environments, especially as the mental health of everyone has suffered through the pandemic.

“Employees need to know the Government has their back.”

Kristina MacLean, who works for the Department of National Defence, said she was currently pushing for a hybrid work model, but the lack of strong language outlining teleworking options made it difficult.

“We did the work, we’ve shown we can do the work, now it’s time for everyone to be a little flexible,” Ms MacLean (pictured) said.

“Right now it’s at the employer’s discretion,” she said.

“Depending on which Department you’re in or what classification you are, you’re getting different treatment and you could all be working in the same office.”

Ms MacLean said the communication surrounding the return to work had been made up of “loose, vague directives” that were open to misinterpretation.

“I think that puts us in dangerous territory because if it’s completely up to the discretion of the employer, how are we going to protect the workers’ rights?” she asked.

Ottawa, 12 September 2022

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